Central Bedfordshire Council news and press releases

400 children get panto treat thanks to our holiday programme

Wednesday, 21 December 2022

Almost 400 children between the ages of 5 and 12 got a special treat yesterday (Tuesday) after they went to see Cinderella – this year’s pantomime at the Grove Theatre in Dunstable.

A family in front of the 2023 Christmas pantomime poster

This was all thanks to funding from our holiday activities and food (HAF) programme.

Our HAF programme is designed for children eligible for benefit-related free school meals, which is a requirement from the Department for Education which funds the programme. All children who attend face-to-face activities are provided with a healthy hot meal, so ahead of the panto the children tucked into a buffet at the theatre.

We've funded activities for children throughout the Christmas holidays, including arts, crafts and creative activities, multi-activity clubs, outdoor and sports focussed sessions and youth and holiday clubs. This Christmas, children who attended two or more days of HAF sessions were given a recipe bag containing the ingredients needed to make a hearty winter vegetable stew. These bags were also given to families who attended the pantomime.

One parent said:

It’s amazing. I think it’s a lovely thing for the little ones to do. It’s nice for all the families to get together, and it’s brilliant that there’s food on offer too.

Another emailed us to say:

I would like to say a massive thank you to the HAF team for organising the pantomime yesterday – my children had a fantastic night.The team put so many smiles on family's faces, the food was amazing. And the vegetable bags that got handed out at the end will be such a great help for so many of us.

Councillor Sue Clark, our Executive Member for Families, Education and Children, said:

Our HAF programme provides incredibly valuable support for families during the Easter, summer and Christmas holidays. Not only does it ensure children are able to make the most of fun activities, but by providing a free hot meal and snacks it also relieves some of the pressure that parents may be facing this Christmas with the rising cost of living.

By all accounts everyone had a fantastic time at the panto, and we are really pleased this is something we were able to do this Christmas.

We've set up a dedicated information hub for anyone concerned about the cost of living. This includes information about funding for vulnerable residents to help with food, energy and water bills and other wider essentials and a network of warm spaces across Central Bedfordshire for people to use when the temperatures drop.